London: Michael Spark Senior, 1643. 4to. [ii], 22 pp. (final leaf blank). Title-page within decorative border, woodcut initials and headpieces. Sewn as issued; interior. First issue of first edition. Item #17565
First edition, first issue (Wing, P3947A lists a second issue with “cowardisze” in the title). Prynne published this pamphlet shortly after the Parliamentarian victory over Royalist forces at the siege of Hull in October 1643. He here writes about the proper rules of engagement in war times, warning that “cowardly, mercenary Souldiers and Governours, who through feare or covetousnesse betray their trusts, have undergone most exemplary censures and punishments.” Prynne framed these rules using King Charles I’s own prescriptions of martial law as a not-so-subtle critique of Royalist forces who break these laws. Notably, he also encourages the governors of recently captured towns to submit to the conquering army lest they be accused of treason. Prynne is also sure to turn his attention to the Parliamentarian army suggesting that they follow these rules as well.
Prynne (1600-1669) was a prolific pamphleteer and attorney who wrote on numerous subjects from theater to theology, publishing over 200 works during his lifetime. He denounced the monarchy and Charles I at the onset of the English Civil Wars in the 1640’s. Ever the staunch Puritan, however, he viewed Oliver Cromwell’s faction of Independents and their brand of radical Puritanism as detrimental to the state’s power. When the Independents took control of the Parliament in 1648, Prynne was swiftly expelled. He later opposed the execution of Charles I, and after the regicide, he supported the Restoration. After Charles II took the throne, he gave Prynne the position of the Keeper of the Records in the Tower of London.